We all know the moment,15 minutes out of Johannesburg and the head pops up , “ Are we there yet?” , followed by “ When are we going to be there?”
Grimly we carry on wishing the kilometres away. When my brother and I were small trips were meticulously planned and we left after midnight allowing us to sleep a good part of the trip, we each had a book, and two new comics , after that we resorted to “ I spy with my little eye” and car cricket where every VW Beetle meant you lost a wicket. There was not stopping for meals as Mom would have made sufficient “padkos” for breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.
The comics and the books were shared and sometimes you just sat still and looked out the window.
Well things are different now, just about everyone has a tablet or phone with apps and games , yes I am referring to the toddlers and older and that is how they entertain themselves. I once camped on a trail and got up at night to stoke the fire for hot water and was amazed to see two kids in a car watching a DVD on the onboard entertainment system – the mind boggles.
When our son grew up cutting edge games were Tetris and Snake on cellphones and one could only sms, the other messaging platforms had not been conceived.
On arrival at an off-road destination he played with other kids , they swam and rode horses,ran around and immersed themselves in the bush experience.
Today parents often bemoan the plethora of technology and wish that their children could experience things as they were in days gone by.
Well it’s not that hard, we used one bit of technology on all our travels and that kept the family entertained even on long 1800 kmjourneys, and that was simply to hire a selection of audio books prior to the trip,over the years we have listended to some real classics read by the doyens of theatre and film. All enjoyed by young and old.
I then packed a box which was deemed the playbox,it was easily accessible in the car and in camp.
In it I would have a selection of game guides and bird books as well as a map of the area,believe it or not kids love working out where they are and looking up fauna and flora. In this case I must support technology, there are some amazing bird and animals apps available across most platforms- sort of using technology in an old world way – they even play the sound made by the animals to assist in identification.
Dependent on age add in a few toys that are hardy and durable, metal cars and suchlike work well here ,toys that require building are often a problem in the bush.In the box one would also find a torch and binoculars as kids love their own torch,add to that a few games that the family can play or even if the little ones make friends.Then once again dependent on age add a few books as the boredom of travel disappears when confronted by a compelling read.
Some of one’s 4×4 items often get used around the campsite,my son put my spade to good use in a river near Colenso where we regularly visited – every time it was used to make roads in the muddy areas for his metal 4×4’s.
Camping and visiting 4×4 trails give children a degree of freedom,watch them , but let them roam,they know their limits.
Involve them in daily tasks such as making fires, stoking a donkey boiler and even preparing food if they are old enough.
There is just so much for children to do in the bush and quiet often they shun all the contents of the playbox and make their own toys and play with those, things such as boats and aeroplanes as well as clay figurines come to mind.
We would love to hear from you if you could share your experiences travelling with children , how you coped and any special tips you may have. Please share at www.allterrain.co.za .